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The Dartmouth
May 30, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Hobby Lobby: How Dartmouth Students Spend Their Free Time

One writer asks students how they beat boredom between obligations.

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While the concept of boredom might sound foreign in the last weeks of the term, there are fleeting moments in which students want to stop thinking about school — or, perhaps more relatably, moments when you just want to procrastinate school.  

Recently on FFB I heard someone say, “It’s so boring at Dartmouth! There’s nothing to do.” 

That got me thinking: What do people do here when they’re bored? What are the hobbies and unique pastimes that our neck of the woods inspires in those with a spare moment? 

The cool thing about hobbies is that they tell us how people choose to spend their time in a way that they enjoy, instead of doing homework or going on their phones. You may think your hobbies are boring — Shoshie Bernstein ’26 thought so, too. She told me she felt that the more hobbies she shared, the more generic she sounded. But the truth is, what people are interested in can be what makes them interesting. 

“I feel like at home I have a lot more clear-cut hobbies, like playing with my dogs and driving around and doing art projects,” Bernstein said.

This happens for a lot of college students, myself included. In a new environment, we have to find new things to do. At home we had accumulated hobbies, but over the four years here we have to create new ones. Bernstein said she is trying that out.

“I usually find my roommate and just make her engage with me in a very long conversation about anything,” Bernstein said. “I’m a [women’s, gender and sexuality studies] major so I make her discuss gender and sexuality topics with me. We unpack all of our internalized misogyny.”

That’s not boring. That’s cool. Bernstein said these conversations leave her pensive and refreshed. Talking about things you typically feel like you don’t have the time to discuss is sometimes the key to sparking creativity or happiness. 

Bernstein also told me about how she went to CVS and got a notebook and markers so she can listen to music and draw. She also choreographs dances. Listening to people talk about what they enjoy, from WGSS discussions to choreography, gives you a little peek into who they choose to be when their time is their own. 

When I asked Simon Sloan ’26 what he does in his free time, he responded immediately with “Chess.com.” Playing chess online is Sloan’s preferred method of unwinding and challenging himself. It’s a hobby that saw a big surge over the pandemic, but Sloan has only recently hopped onto the trend. 

He explained that there are ranking systems in chess, and as you get better, your ELO score — a rating system that indicates players’ skill, in which beginners are roughly below 1000 and masters are roughly above 2500 — goes up. 

“I started at like 700 ELO and have risen up to around 900 ELO,” Sloan said. 

Sloan’s friend Jake Zrihen ’26 chimed in to mock his friend’s hobby. 

“Being the number one chess player in the world has been my dream for the past month,” Zrihen said, imitating Sloan. While Sloan is tailing the pros by roughly 2000 ELO points, there’s no telling how close to Bobby Fischer he’ll get if he keeps up with his new hobby.

Sloan’s friends, as well as his girlfriend, have watched his obsession with chess grow over the short month he’s been playing — so Sloan has a clear pair of activities consuming his free time.

 “I’ll facetime my queen Yasmine or I’ll play chess,” Sloan said. “It's incredibly addicting. I get easily distracted. I kinda use chess as a way to procrastinate work now because it’s still mentally stimulating and I feel like it's an academic activity.”

This is the kind of obsession with a hobby we all fall into every once in a while, using entertainment to procrastinate. But Sloan foresees chess sticking with him longer than finals period — his ultimate goal, as he said, is getting his “game into tip top shape.”

Sometimes you have to get creative to satisfy your hobbies. Chess isn’t cutting it? TV getting too boring? Not tired enough to take a nap? Go outside! 

Others are more inclined to take advantage of the outdoor experiences Hanover has to offer. Keelia Stevens ’24 said she’ll usually take advantage of a study break to get some fresh air.

“I like being outside, so if I’ve done something outside then I feel better going back to work,” Stevens said. “Sometimes I sprint somewhere nice just for a few minutes.”

Similarly, Francesco Dembinski ’26 uses his free time for adventures.

“I go hiking, skiing, I work as an EMT and I row,” Dembinski said, and mentioned that some of his favorite hikes in the area have been along the Appalachian Trail, Mount Moosilauke and Mount Cardigan.

Dembinski confessed that he’s also likely to go on his phone or watch TV in spare moments, although he tries to avoid racking up too much screen time. I’m no stranger to the struggle between picking up a hobby I won’t be ashamed of, like reading or journaling, and doing what I want — usually, rewatching “New Girl” for the umpteenth time. But hobbies are about more than impressing strangers with the clever ways you spend your time. I know I could make “New Girl” sound awesome to anyone who wants to hear about it.

But when you’re finding yourself with some time to kill — or to waste — and you’re looking for something a little out of the ordinary, here are a few offerings of how your peers choose to spend their time. Tucked into their dorms, in the alcoves of the library and along the Appalachian Trail, there are people filling their minds and free time with things they enjoy. Some are drawing, some are playing chess against virtual opponents and some are headed to find some trees and take a deep breath before plunging back into their work.